Category Archives: Best Practices for Social Software in Libraries

Your Library Does not Need a Social Media Plan By TTW Contributor Dr. Troy Swanson

Last month, someone contacted me about creating social media plans in libraries. From our email exchange, I think she was a bit surprised when I said that I think social media plans often get in the way and are a waste of resources. I told her that I could not send her a sample social media plan or a list of best practices for writing a social media plan. I told her that my suggested best practice was to not write a plan at all.

When I think about a “plan”, I mean a systematized set of steps that guide an organization through a process in order to achieve a goal. Plans are coordination tools. They layout steps, and they help people understand how they will work together. They are really useful in guaranteeing a course of action and preventing the group from deviating from that course. Plans work best when actions and goals are fairly well understood. Moving a library collection from an old facility to a new facility is a problem where a plan is absolutely vital. Having a technology plan for server upgrades or computer cascades is often important.

For a social media plan to be really useful, the planners would need to anticipate things they do not know as well as lessons they will learn along the way. They also need to anticipate new technologies that have not been invented. The plan will be in need of constant update.

We often overlook the fact that plans are not overly helpful when the goal is to learn, innovate, and adapt. As we know, social media are a set of technologies that are evolving constantly. They thrive in environments that are highly adaptive where organizational members can use technology to meet ever-changing needs. The decision about applying social media to needs should be located as closely to the ground as possible and not up at the top of the organizational chart.

This isn’t to say that effective use of social media relies on anarchy. Far from it. Organizations still need a structure around social media. Organizations can encourage social media by defining policies, workflows, guidelines, and best practices. These broad documents offer an outline where experimentation and play can exist around social media tool. The goal is to create a safe environment to play around with social media. Unfortunately, plans often fit our organizational DNA better than playfulness. Plans feel better than experiments, because plans require us to come up with outcomes in advance. Thus, we’ll spend six months developing a plan instead of spending that time developing an online services that advances our mission.

Many administrators like plans because they provide the illusion of making the unknown into something known. To me, this desire for a plan hearkens back to Michael Stephen’s warning from 2006, “Warning: failure to innovate while overthinking & underplanning library services may cause loss of library users & library staff.“. Social media plans too often fall into the category of failure to innovate due to “overthinking.”

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the book, Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Social Media Best Practices for Libraries: A TTW Guest Post

This post was written by Kasia Grabowska for last semester’s LIS 768: Library 2.0 & Networking Technologies class. Kasia has allowed me to repost it here.

After doing brand monitoring research for the past few weeks, looking closely at Skokie Public Library (and not so closely at several other libraries), I decided to put together a list of “do’s and don’ts” for librarians on successfully utilizing social media.

This is what I learned from doing brand monitoring and what I personally would recommend to libraries that are getting started with social media.

Tip #1: Learn how to monitor your brand

Join the RIGHT conversations at the RIGHT time. In other words, stay on top of what people are saying about you and make sure to respond, to let people know that you are listening and willing to join the conversation.

Tools to utilize for brand monitoring include RSS feeds, Google Alerts, Technorati, and staying on top of your Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts. This is definitely the number 1 lesson I learned from this assignment.

Tip #2: Learn from your brand community

You’re already engaging in conversations, why not ask people for some feedback? There are plenty of quick and easy ways to get good information that will help you keep learning from what you’re doing and improving the process as you go along. Just make sure not to overdo it; remember to always engage in conversations as a person.

Tip #3: Have a game plan

Set goals, measure and iterate your social media efforts in order to continue to grow and improve your efforts. Make sure everyone who is involved in your social media strategy clearly understands the role and goals of this initiative. There’s nothing worse than joining a social network with no purpose, plan or a way to measure what you’re doing.

By using trackable links (like or to help track what your users are responding to, you will be able to measure your efforts and make improvements.

Tip #4: Promote, promote, promote

I noticed a lot of libraries who do wonderful things on Facebook, Twitter or Flickr yet they don’t include links to their social networks on their websites. Or libraries that use Twitter often but don’t follow anyone; that’s not a good way to start a conversation.

A library website should be an entry point to social media; you need to create awareness. People should not have to search for you on Facebook, or Twitter, you should reach out to every member of your community first.

Tip #5: Allow open, yet governed access for your employees

This is where a social media policy comes in. By making sure everyone who is involved in your efforts understands what to do (what they’re allowed to say, how they should respond in different situations, etc) you won’t have to monitor what each person does. Instead, you will be able to focus on making improvements.

One tip about your social media policy — make sure it’s succinct and to the point, otherwise no one will want to read it.

Tip #6: Stay relevant and be helpful

Use social media to build trust, credibility and awareness in your community. Instead of broadcasting information, try creating conversations. Remember, speaking doesn’t always result in being heard.

Be helpful, stay relevant and focus on your community’s needs. It’s also important to humanize your efforts; don’t hide behind your library’s logo, allow your users to get to know you as a person.

Tip #7: Give your community room to grow

Focus on small, consistent and ongoing change. Let your members decide how they want to use “their” online community. Listen to what they have to say and change your goals and objectives based on how your community wants to utilize social media.

Tip #8: Remember, you’re not alone

By building relationships with key people within your community who also utilize social media you can leverage your efforts and obtain better reach. People who are influencers, those who are natural communicators or leaders in your community can help your social media efforts immensely. Identify these people and ask for help. Word of mouth can be very powerful.

Tip #9: Go where your users are

Remember, you don’t have to be an early adopter. It is much better to wait for your community to start utilizing the technology before adding it to your social media arsenal. In short, go where your users are. It’s much easier for someone to join you on Facebook or Twitter if the person actually uses the technology.

Tip #10: Lead change

This is important, especially for libraries that can be very resistant to change at times: if you want to lead change, find one thing you said no to in the past and give it a try.

This is actually something I heard at a digital marketing conference I got a chance to attend last month, but I think it applies great to libraries and social media.

Kasia Grabowska is currently working on her MLIS at Dominican University. She is a website manager for Train Signal, Inc and the editor in cheif of a blog focusing on IT training and certification.

Why No Comments?

Don’t miss:

One of the stumbling blocks for libraries when we talk about blogging is the fact that so many library blogs never get comments. This article – focused on associations – might be very useful for strategic planning for the library blog.

I especially like this one:

2. Open and easy. If you really want to build comments, you have to be open and make commenting easy. Limiting your blog content or commenting features to members also limits what you can achieve with your blog. A members-only strategy may be appropriate in some cases, but not if your goal is to engage a vocal audience. In fact, to truly be open, try setting up a blog with

  • No login; 
  • Easy to find comment links; 
  • No captchas—those annoying things that make people spell out letters to prove they are human; 
  • No moderation. (You can always be notified of new posts and moderate after the comments are posted.) The instant gratification a new commenter feels when they see their name and content post to your site is not to be underestimated.
The article goes on to list ten types of posts that can rock. They fit well with our purposes:
  • Insight or opinion. If your blogger can be honest and open enough to share an opinion, you’ll build rapport and attract readers. If you’re brave enough to express an unpopular opinion, you’ll get even more comments.
  • Conference. You have a backstage pass. Why not use it to bring a whole new side of the conference experience to your members, and hear what they think about it?
  • Interview. Find out what the experts really think and share it with your readers.
  • Lists. Hey, you’re reading this list, right? People love lists because they’re easy to digest.
  • Live. What if you live blogged the congressional hearing on the most important issue affecting your members?
  • Announcement. This is about using your position in the industry to let people know about the most important stuff they have to know—even if it’s from a competitor.
  • Survey. We sure do enough of them, right? Whether you’re surveying just your blog readers or sharing the results of a broader survey, it will get people talking.
  • Response. If you’re not getting called out by another blogger once in awhile, you’re not doing it right. Debate draws audience, and a good rebuttal might even change some opinions.
  • Meme. When you’re trying to build awareness about an important topic, starting a meme (something like an online chain letter, but with substance) is a great way to get lots of bloggers talking all at the same time.
  • Guest. Hand over the stage to one of your celebrity members for a day.
  • I think I’ve done many of these at TTW. Which ones have you done? What would you add to the list?
    And watch out for the type of posts they say to avoid:

  • Announcement. I know—we said this was a good one. But it will backfire if you only announce your own new products and conference dates.
  • Rant. Stirring the pot is one thing, going on a negative rant is something different. This works great for some bloggers, but for associations, it’s a losing proposition.
  • Press Release: Web 2.0 & Libraries, Part 2: Trends and Technologies

    Web 2.0 & Libraries, Part 2: Trends and Technologies

    by Michael Stephens

    Library Technology Reports, Web 2.0 and Libraries Part 2Social software, more ubiquitous than ever, continues to have a profound impact on information and communication in the Information Age.

    From the American Library Association to social software news aggregation, it's clear the trend toward utilizing "Web 2.0" technologies for information and communication in the 21st century is growing stronger.

    In "Web 2.0 & Libraries, Part 2: Trends and Technologies," librarian and educator Dr. Michael Stephens continues his 2.0 work and re-emphasizes the importance of libraries embracing this world of conversation, community, and collaboration.

    "In this issue [of Library Technology Reports]," he writes, "we'll revisit some of the social tools presented in 'Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software,' address some trends guiding social technology in libraries, take a look at some newer tools, and cover some best practices for using 2.0 tools in your library."

    With the "Presence in the 2.0 World " foreward by Jenny "The Shifted Librarian" Levine, this 80-page issue of Library Technology Reports covers a broad range of Web 2.0 topics, tools, and considerations, including:

    • value-added blogging
    • building a community Web site with a blog
    • Ten Best Practices for Flickr & Libraries
    • libraries and social sites like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube
    • tagging and social bookmarking
    • Messaging in a 2.0 World: Twitter & SMS
    • podcasting
    • The OPAC Rebooted
    • how libraries such as the Hennepin County Library and the Arlington Heights Memorial Library are using 2.0 tools

    About the Author
    Michael Stephens, Ph.D, is an assistant professor at the Dominican University Graduate School of Library and Information Science in River Forest, Illinois. A frequent speaker at library conferences around the world, he was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2005. He has been the keynote speaker at many conferences, including the Iowa Library Association Conference, Ohio Tech Connections, the Rethinking Resource Sharing Conference, the Mississippi Library 2.0 Summit (Mississippi State University), and the Ohio Library Council. He also spoke at Internet Librarian International in London in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and at the August 2006 TICER Innovation Institute at the University of Tilburg, the Netherlands. He serves on the editorial boards of several major journals, including Internet Reference Services Quarterly and Reference & User Services Quarterly.

    A prolific author, Michael wrote “Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software,” the July/August 2006 issue of Library Technology Reports published by ALA TechSource (a unit in the publishing dept. of the ALA), and he writes a monthly column, “The Transparent Library,” in Library Journal with Michael Casey. His blog, Tame the Web, is read avidly by many librarians.

    Michael holds bachelor's and MLS degrees from Indiana University and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Information Science from the University of North Texas. He divides his time among Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.

    Marketing Social Software to the Public: Your Success Stories

    Greetings from the ultra-cool Traverse Area District Library, where I am embedded on the second floor working on my second installment of Library Technology Reports. This issue is a followup to last year’s Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software. This year it’s “Web 2.0 & Libraries, Part 2: Trends and Technologies, and I’m working on pulling it all together so it is as current as it can possibly be.

    My request? Please share your success stories and not so successful stories about marketing social software to the public. When Karen Schneider reviewed part one last year she noted that might be a good inclusion for a future issue. So, what have you done to market your 2.0 goodness to your users? Please share here and if I use your stuff, I’ll be sure to cite you! :-)

    You can also email me at mstephens7 (at)

    Why Don’t CEOs (Library Directors?) Blog…

    Director, are you Blogging??

    Via the Church of the Customer Blog:

    If CEOs blogged, they would save considerable time on hundreds of weekly emails that ask roughly the same types of questions. That’s part of Debbie Weil’s thesis in The Corporate Blogging Book. “Why not do it more efficiently?” she writes. “Instead of a one-to-one message, why not a communication from one to many thousands?” She describes the pro’s and con’s of corporate blogging with plenty o’ pointers on how to do it well and not screw up. I read an early copy of the book and it’s excellent.

    So what about Library Directors? I know of a few that are blogging (see below), but I think it would be nice to have a few more — in fact, I’d hope that more directors will be inspired AND the next wave of folks that move into admin positions would welcome the chance to speak directly to their users!

    How cool would it be if the local newspapers syndicated their headlines with an RSS feed so that you could subscribe to them? And blogged “live” from government meetings? And posted dozens of photos (all the ones that didn’t make it in this week’s paper) on a Flickr account, especially if there was breaking news? OK, we’re biased because we want them to do it so that we can feed the headlines, blog posts and photos onto our own Darien Community Matters blog, providing the most balanced, accurate and up-to-date information possible. And I guess that you could say that we’re becoming Web 2.0 missionaries….. because we (that’s me and Assistant Director Melissa Yurechko) invited Josh Fisher, editor of the Darien Times over to discuss it, as the first of a series of meetings with the local news media.

    Louise Berry, Director, Darien Library, Director’s Blog


    I wonder why many directors do not blog?

    Could it be:

    No Time?? Possibly, but wouldn’t being able to communicate library news and important details about the business of the library to the most people with an easy to use mechanism be a useful tool? It would also set an example, that top-down buy-in that is important for technologyyy projectss and organizational shifts. Here’s David King’s take on the Time thing as well — it deserves another link.

    Fear? Are you afraid to put yourself out there? Afraid that a typo might slip through. It’s time to let that go.We certainly don’t have to publish our home phone numbers, but some human discourse from the top might be very welcome in many libraries, internally and externally. Folks don’t care about a typo or two these days — and heck, you can always go back and fix it.


    I, as the administrator, and the one whose job is on the line, am willing to take a risk here. Why are others so risk averse? It costs us very little. Other libraries are doing it without problem, we are not first, and I’ll be blasted if we will be last!

    Michael Golrick, City Librarian, Bridgeport, CT at his blog Thoughts from a Library Administrator


    “I have nothing to say.” Oh, yes you do! Tell your story, your day to day adventures, your thoughts on the library and its collection. Blog your plans and strategies. This isn’t top secret work (well, yeah, some stuff is private), but blogging creates a level of transperancy that could benefit many libraries.

    That’s what the marketing/PR Department is for. Well, I’d hope that PR was blogging too, in a human voice, not the language of marketing that people can recognize these days so easily, BUT the voice of library administration carries a lot of weight too. Here’s what the Cluetrain says oh so well: “But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.”

    I spend an awful lot of time soliciting and then responding to feedback and suggestions from our users. Lately, the written suggestions in the box asking for “newer” and “better” DVDs have outnumbered the requests for specific books or authors by nearly 12 to 1. My response to the requests for newer, better DVDs has always been that we buy what Blockbuster doesn’t — the hard-to-find TV shows — the series, the old shows & films, the BBCAmerica & PBS films — and not the drivel (Oops. I’m showing my bias. Sorry) that appears in the theaters. However, when people request a specific title, whether book, music, movie, or magazine, we’ll usually buy it.

    I’ve just finished a lengthy analysis of our collection, including what we buy, how much it’s used, and what our users ask for. The not-surprising conclusion I’ve come to is that DVD and Books on CD are used far more than our print collection. For example, one copy of a bestselling book by John Grisham got 59 circs during the period I was reviewing, while The Sopranos DVD recorded 354 circs. A Book on CD version of the same Grisham novel logged in 153 circs. Clearly, the format of choice is not print. In examining our reference questions logged in that period of time, requests for specific movies or Books on CD outnumbered specific requests for print materials by 5 to 1.

    Patricia Uttaro, New and views from the Director of the Ogden Farmers’ Library…


    Finally, and I am sure this is not the case in most places, what’s a blog? Directors, if you haven’t spent some time with the new tools and these new conversations, now is the time. Ask someone on staff to show you some blogs. Then ponder how you and your library might use the medium to further your mission, reach out to users, and give human voice to the library.

    (This post has been cooking a long time. Don’t miss Jenny Levine’s post and the Blogging Directors Wiki page.)

    LTR Update: Internal Blogs

    Don’t miss:

    Nicole Engard updates us on the internal blogging going on her library that I wrote about for my Library Technology Report – Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software.:

    The most productive addition to our intranet would have to be the project-specific blogs. These are blogs that anyone can start – one for each ongoing (and completed) project within the library. These blogs are very active! And once again they are an amazing archival tool – I am working on a project now with our ILL and Reference departments and it is HUGE! This project itself has hundred and hundreds of comments and posts on it – all searchable by our intranet search engine and organized by topics (of our choosing). This makes it very easy for the web team to go through and make sure that we have completed everything that was asked of us. It also ensures that everyone who wants to know about the project does – if this were email it’s likely that conversations would go on between me and one person in ILL and then again between my assistant and someone else in ILL – which is no very productive.